US anti-war movement faces important test

FRFI 177 February / March 2004

The anti-war movement in the United States is facing an important test in a struggle between its reformist and anti-imperialist wings. The reformist wing is led by United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ), an alliance of environmentalists, professional activists, NGOs, various ‘progressive’ organisations and various trade unions at the national level. The anti-imperialist wing is represented by the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition.

The division in the anti-war movement began immediately following 11 September. Anti-globalisation demonstrations had been planned in Washington DC at the end of September. Following the attacks on 11 September, the globalisation coalition cancelled them, but a number of anti-imperialist organizations decided to go ahead and founded the ANSWER coalition to express widespread opposition to war and to racist attacks. The demonstrations were re-oriented to oppose jingoism and the anti-Muslim attacks. Some 25,000 demonstrated on 29 September 2001 in Washington, another 15,000 in San Francisco. Since then ANSWER has played the leading role in all the large demonstrations

It has won increased support from youth, local labour organisations and immigrant groups. It played a leading role in the 25 October demonstration last year, and organised or co-organised local protests against the war in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. ANSWER’s anti-imperialist leadership has attracted criticism. It began with attacks from the far right. David Horowitz, renegade from the left and now a rabid guard-dog of imperialism, howled hysterically in Front Page, January 2003, accusing the organizers of being communists:

‘This anti-American pro-terrorist movement is now larger than the anti-Vietnam pro-communist ‘peace’ movement was until the very end of the Sixties.…it is anti-American movement to divide this country in the face of its enemies and give aid and comfort to those who would destroy us.’

The attacks on ANSWER and the anti-imperialist current, which started with the right, were taken up by the ruling class media and then by sections of the antiwar movement itself. Within the UFPJ an attempt is being made to prevent the issue of Palestine being part of the platform for big marches planned for 20 March, alleging that support for the Palestinian struggle is divisive and will reduce support for the march. This section wants to see Iraq under the control of the UN, whereas ANSWER supports the right of the Iraqi people to decide their own future.

The issue is now coming to a head. ANSWER’s call to action on 20 March includes the demands ‘Bring the troops home now!’, ‘End colonial occupation from Iraq to Palestine and everywhere!’, ‘Stop the attacks on civil liberties!’ and ‘Money for jobs, education, healthcare and housing – Not war!’ The coalition is also taking an explicit position opposing internationalising the occupation of Iraq, instead insisting on the Iraqi people's unconditional right to exercise self-determination.

According to Brian Becker, an ANSWER spokesperson:

‘The issue of a political program for March 20, as expressed in the statement, is of paramount importance. It is essential to demand that the US troops leave immediately with no conditions and to support the right of the Iraqi and Palestinian people to resist as they embrace the fundamental right to self-determination. This would include opposing any internationalization of the occupation through the United Nations or any other bodies…the anti-war movement is at a crossroads. …there is a tendency that seeks to direct the movement's energy to supporting Howard Dean or some other Democratic Party candidate in the upcoming national elections.

‘While Bush's policies are criminal, it would be an error for the progressive anti-war movement to become a tail to the Democratic Party, which shares Bush's imperialist objectives regarding the occupation of Iraq, Palestine and everywhere else. The ANSWER statement makes it clear that its goal is to make the international March 20 action one of solidarity with all those who resist US hegemony, domination and invasion.’

ANSWER’s position has received support from the Arab-American community which has issued an ‘Open Letter from the Arab-American and Muslim community to the US anti-war movement’ insisting on full support for the principled call to action, adding:

‘In its attempt to silence the Arab and Muslim voices for decades, particularly that of the Palestinian people, the movement in the US has stood alone in the global movement for justice. We see ourselves as full partners in leading the movement as signified in the heavy price we continue to pay along the way, and reject any attempt to objectify our presence.’

In the past, radical movements have consistently acceded to Zionist objections to raising the Palestinian issue at anti-war events. It is as if, on anti-apartheid protests, the organisers had attempted to exclude the ANC and its struggle. This Open Letter is particularly authoritative, since it has the support of the National Council of Arab Americans (NCAA).

The US anti-war movement now has to choose: is it with the Iraqi people, the Palestinian people and the Arab-American community or is it with imperialism?
All out 20 March under the slogans:

• End all colonial occupations from Iraq to Palestine to everywhere!
• Bring the troops home NOW!
• No to internationalizing colonial occupations!
• Stop the attacks on civil liberties!
• Money for jobs, education, and healthcare not for war!

Steve Palmer, San Francisco correspondent


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